Dec 11, 2013

Broken electoral system, not 1370 votes, to blame for WA mess

An inquiry into how the AEC managed to lose critical votes has laid the blame squarely at the feet of the Electoral Commissioner. But there is plenty to go around.

William Bowe — Editor of The Poll Bludger

William Bowe

Editor of The Poll Bludger

Questions surrounding the competence of the Australian Electoral Commission have intensified this week after a report into the Western Australian Senate fiasco catalogued a string of operational deficiencies combined with a “a culture of complacency” in the AEC’s handling of Senate election counts.


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6 thoughts on “Broken electoral system, not 1370 votes, to blame for WA mess

  1. wayne robinson

    As a Western Australian voter, I’m looking forward to returning to the voting booth next year…

    Perhaps one solution would be to change the method of counting senate votes. Instead of allocating senate seats to the parties or groups which already have a quota or quotas, why not eliminate parties and groups and distribute their preferences in order of increasing numbers of primary votes, until such time as all remaining parties or groups have at least, say, half a quota? And then allocate senate seats as in the present system.

    It would mean that it would no longer be critical how the excess votes of the major parties are distributed. And that the least popular micro-parties would be prevented from winning a seat with a fortunate distribution of preferences.

  2. AR

    I would fear losing the bath water sodden baby were electoral “reform” to limit the number or form of parties nominating which would simply entrench the 19thC dinosaur party structures.
    The simplest way to stop the “preference whisperer” abuse would be removal of the above the line option, introduced by PJK -in 1984 (sic!) in memeory serve – because, in his opinion, ALP voters needed to remove their shoes to tick more 10 boxes.
    Make the number of boxes ticked a proportion of the total ballot, say 10 or 20% and watch the fur fly as the behemoths realise that their domination of the swamp is about to end.

  3. j.oneill

    As I understand the present system of Senate voting one either goes through an extraordinary process of listing often literally dozens of candidates in order of preference (which very few voters apparently do) or voting ‘above the line’ in which case inter party deals decide the allocation of preferences. Frankly, neither system commends itself as either democratic or practical. The result is as the writer suggests, one “allowing parties with negligible support to fluke their way to victory.”

    I know that it is heresy in Australia to suggest that we are not the world’s perfect exemplar of democracy, but, as umpteen other democracies show, there is a simpler and more effective way of allocating Senate seats. Instead of the present system, the voter should have one vote, which they allocate to the party of their choice. Seats are the allocated to the parties in accordance with their share of the vote. Eg: Liberals get 33% of the vote; they get 33% of the available seats. Set a minimum, say 5% to be even considered for election removes the lunatic fringe parties whose electoral support is often less than 1%, but wind up with a Senate seat for 6 years because of the “flukes” of the preference system.

    I know that some people argue that that puts the power in the hands of the party list makers, but so what? How is that different from the deals that the parties do now to put someone at No 1 in the list etc.?

    Who knows, we might even end up with a Senate where the membership actually reflects party support in the country. Now there’s a dangerous thought.

  4. zut alors

    Note the hilarious irony of Keelty reporting on the ineptitude of the AEC. This is the same fellow who oversaw the Dr Mohamed Haneef debacle.

  5. wiki

    There is an inevitable problem within the structure of the AEC which the author alludes to;out of electoral seasons the AEC officials are hard pressed to fill a day.When Elections are in prospect or on the AEC officers could use 25 hour days.The obvious rational solution which is never going to happen wold be to amalgamate all the state and territorial election bodies into one national professional electoral commission.This would mean that the AEC or its successor would have much greater recourses to bring to the task,would have electoral work across the cycle and the capacity to offer a much greater professional structure to its staff.It could be set up as an independent commission with commissioners drawn from the Australian and State Parliaments ,Governments or Judiciaries.But as I said it will never happen.Too much vested interest

  6. DF

    I feel a bit sorry for Ed Killesteyn. He was moved to the AEC from a position as Dep Sec at Immigration (DIMA, DIMIA, DIMAC and whatever. His move followed DIMIA’s handling of the Vivien Solon case, which was as a result of a decision of a former DIMIA staffer who has since resigned and is allegedly running a motel on the East Coast), and not Killesteyn’s fault.
    I have a friend, a teacher of 30 years standing, who until this election had always worked at the school hall in her rural town on the NSW South Coast. She said she no longer wanted to be involved because the AEC did not look after the returning officers properly (eg long days and insufficient breaks) due to budget problems. This would hardly be Killesteyn’s fault.

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